Losang Gyatso was born in Lhasa but has spent most of his life in the UK and the US where he's been based since 1974. He started making art in the early 1990s while working as an advertising creative in New York City.
Initially a process of reconciling his own identity and aesthetics, his work evolved over time from explorations of Tibetan rock art, mythology, and Buddhist ideas, towards a more universal, abstract, and playful way of seeing the world that is perhaps both sensual and spiritual.
His current project titled, Happiness (Rapture Now), is a series of paintings that look at the ideas of change and interconnectedness.
Gyatso lives in Virginia, USA and his work can be followed on Instagram @losanggyatso.art
The Fowler Museum - Los Angeles, Loyola University Museum of Art - Chicago, Rubin Museum - New York City, Galerie Oboro - Montreal, Galerie Atraktion - Bern,
Sweet Tea House - London, CU Art Museum - Boulder, Crow Museum of Asian Art - Dallas
Rosi & Rosi - London, The Dorsky Museum - New Paltz, Visual Arts Gallery - Atlanta
Transforming a Tradition: Tibetan Artists on the Dialectic of Sanctity and Modernity
- Dr. Michael Sheehy
Drawing inspiration for his artwork from millennia of Tibetan history, Losang Gyatso seeks to reimagine Tibetan visual norms. Like many of his generation, Gyatso was born in Tibet but has lived the majority of his life outside the borders of his homeland, growing up in the United Kingdom and moving to the United States in 1974. As a Tibetan looking in on Tibet, his work incorporates multiple facets of the Tibetan aesthetic—from the rock art created by the region’s pre-Buddhist Zhang Zhung civilization, to worn-down antiques and artifacts, folk imagery and mythic pictographs, textiles and utility objects, newspaper photos and television screens—presenting this historical imagery in abstract forms.
Gyatso’s digital prints conceptually explore a range of visual themes and narratives. His Green Zone of Amoghasiddhi (2007) and Clear Light Tara (2009), created in the style that he calls “linear painting,” exemplify his ability to reinterpret distinctive Tibetan imagery. As if to intentionally blur the normative frames of perception for his Tibetan viewers, he has taken two classic sublime forms from the Tibetan Buddhist imagination and stripped them of their context and convention. Like pixilated images on a computer monitor, each form in these two digital images is exaggerated to the point that its details cannot be visually resolved. In Green Zone of Amoghasiddhi, the Tibetan letter Ah, which is understood within tantric Buddhism to symbolize the vibrational presence inherent in the power of voice and which is the core syllable of the cosmic Buddha Amoghasiddhi, is visualized as a composition of neon green concentric shapes radiating from dark red glowing bubbles. Gyatso’s Clear Light Tara, based on one of the ﬁrst pieces acquired by
the founders of the Rubin Museum of Art, Shelly and Donald Rubin, is a repossession of the form of the female deity White Tara (sgrol dkar). By digitally reconﬁguring the color schemes of these images, Gyatso has subtracted and refracted the image information to the extent that the images remain recognizable yet are no longer representational.
In these two artworks, traditional images are receding from their symbolic signiﬁcance; the viewer is left with faint memory traces of their original appearance, embedded and scattered throughout a fragmented re-presentation. In a recent conversation, Gyatso articulated his motivation for creating this piece:
“I was interested in what a Tibetan thangka looked and felt like to a non-Tibetan who doesn’t view it
through a complex Tibetan socio-cultural prism, and who brings their own experience of viewing art.
This led me to strip away as much cultural-speciﬁc information and form as possible, and to reduce the
White Tara thangka to as pure a universal manifestation as possible.”
He goes on to say, “For Tibetans, a depiction of Tara, or any other deity that they have an aﬃnity with, exudes and pulsates with physical and mental energy. My goal with this project was to create a Tara that would do some of that to a non-Tibetan.” Leaving us with an abstraction of the original, Gyatso is at once commenting on the intrinsic linearity of the Tibetan artistic tradition while suggesting that such conceptual and visual distortions are integral to a new Tibetan art.